Battling Potters impress Vieira

The City new boy is in the middle of a trilogy against Tony Pulis’

side. Having drawn the FA Cup opener on Saturday, City now head to

the Britannia Stadium for a Premier League encounter knowing they

face another stern examination of their physical abilities. It is a

welcome back to England for Vieira, who for the past

four-and-a-half seasons has been used to the more cultured approach

in Italy. However, as he remembers plenty of gruelling outings at

the Reebok Stadium, he knows exactly what he let himself in for

when he left Inter Milan last month. And actually, he quite enjoys

it. “There are no teams like that in Italy but I had a few tough

moments against Bolton, so I knew what it was going to be like,”

said the 33-year-old. “The physical aspect of England is different

but don’t forget I was at Arsenal for nine years. “A lot of my game

is based on the physical aspect. I enjoy it. In Italy it was

different. That is why I am so pleased to come back.” Vieira knows

it will be no different on Tuesday. If anything, given the raucous

atmosphere that the Britannia Stadium generally provides, an even

more intense occasion can be expected. But there is none of the

sniffiness about the Frenchman that his former manager Arsene

Wenger used to reserve for his encounters with Bolton. Vieira

admires the manner in which Tony Pulis gets the best out of his

players. “All credit to them,” he said. “Stoke don’t make it easy

for any team. “They battle for the full 90 minutes every time they

play and it is really difficult to defend their set-pieces. “In

fact, if you are talking purely about that aspect of the game I

would say they have a good chance to reach the Champions League

final. “And when you look at the goal they scored on Saturday, what

can you do apart from congratulate them.” Roberto Mancini will try

to find a way, having criticised his defenders for their starting

positions as Rory Delap hurled one of his famous throws to the edge

of the six-yard area, where Ricardo Fuller came charging through a

crowd of bodies to head an equaliser that condemned City to an FA

Cup replay as they try to book a quarter-final tie with Chelsea.

Vieira has his own ideas too, which mainly involve City playing to

their own strengths rather than their opponents’. “Stoke like to

play long ball so when we get it we need to keep it on the floor

and move it really quickly,” he said. “That is the best way to beat

this team. You have to play one-twos. “If we try to play long balls

like they do it will be tough and difficult for us.” Just a draw in

one of their two games in hand will be enough to edge City into the

top four. Mancini is bound to make changes, which include Vieira’s

return to central midfield. Adam Johnson also appears a certain

starter after he was cup-tied for Saturday’s game. Johnson’s

man-of-the-match performance against Bolton last week would

probably have guaranteed him selection anyway but with Martin

Petrov and Shaun Wright-Phillips both doubtful, the former

Middlesbrough man seems destined to occupy a left-sided berth.

Mancini did raise some hope that Craig Bellamy might be available

but as he previously ruled the Welshman out with a knee injury, not

too much optimism can be generated. So, if both Bellamy and another

of Saturday’s walking wounded, midfielder Stephen Ireland, are

absent, injury-prone Roque Santa Cruz might be handed his first

start since lasting just four minutes of his previous one, at

Everton last month.